Cruise Control

The new fall cars are efficient and fun to drive.

With still-high gas prices—and concern for the planet—consumers definitely want fuel-efficient cars. And car lovers will like the fun-to-drive factor, along with the safety and efficiency, in the 2013 models.

Luxurious fun

Zimbrick BMW offers a wide selection of hybrid vehicles, from SUVs and sport sedans to large, luxury 7 Series Sedans, along with clean diesel options. It also has certified pre-owned vehicles. 

But buyers also want luxury items and a fun ride, notes Andy LaBerge, general manager. “People looking at BMWs don’t just want transportation, but something they look forward to getting into after work and driving.”

BMW’s 3 Series is just the ticket.  LaBerge is excited about the new 328i Sedan, which came out in August. “It’s a new design with all-wheel drive, which BMW didn’t offer earlier this year, but they’ve added it back,” he says.

“It gets up to 33 miles per gallon, but it’s a performance car; it’s fun to drive,” LaBerge continues. “It’s won many awards and does a lot of things extremely well—the suspension, the engine, the features—and it’s a top safety pick”

Many 3 Series models have BMW’s Connected Drive. “You can pair your phone with the car and have it read your emails and texts,” says LaBerge. “It also connects with apps like Facebook, Twitter and Pandora. You can see them on your iDrive screen.”

He’s excited about the X1, BMW’s smallest SUV, which wasn’t available in the U.S. until now. “People like that sport-utility space, but they want a carlike drive and a sporty feel,” LaBerge explains. “The X1 drives like a sports sedan but has utility—the seats fold down and there’s considerable space in back.”

Also brand new is the 6 Series Gran Coupe. “The 6 Series models had always been two-door coupes or convertibles, and this is a four-door version,” says LaBerge. “These are very sporty sedans for buyers who want something unique.”

Turbocharged

Ryan Fields, general manager at Fields Jaguar, Land Rover, Volvo Madison, has already seen some exciting models come out this year. “Everything is trending toward fuel efficiency—not necessarily smaller cars, but more efficient engines,” he says.

For instance, the Volvo S60 T5 AWD, previously only available in two-wheel drive, has a smaller, turbocharged engine. “Before you had to have a bigger engine to get all-wheel drive,” says Fields. “Now you can get a more fuel-efficient sedan while getting the benefits of AWD for Wisconsin’s weather. And it’s considerably less expensive than the T6.”

Welcome on cold or rainy days, remote start will be a factory option for Volvo models this winter. And like most vehicles today, premium “infotainment systems,” including Bluetooth, will continue to be available, as will the Volvo Safe & Secure Plan.

The plan has been really big for us,” Fields says. “You can get maintenance, including brakes and most systems, for five years or 50,000 miles at no extra cost.”

Jaguar, which hasn’t offered AWD for five-plus years, has a new XJ model coming out in late fall. “It’s really exciting,” Fields enthuses.

Land Rover’s newest model will debut a little later than usual, in winter. “They’re introducing a brand new, entirely redesigned Range Rover,” notes Fields. “They haven’t released many details yet, but it will look dramatically different, with a sleeker design. The company did a lot of consumer research to see what people wanted.”

Winner of Motor Trend’s SUV of the Year award, among others, the Range Rover Evoque has been around since last fall. “A lot of people haven’t seen it,” Fields says. “They made very few, and demand has been so high, we haven’t had a good inventory until now.

“It’s a different direction for Land Rover,” he adds. “Ranger Rover is its premium brand, and the Evoque is smaller, with a more fuel-efficient engine—it’s the first Land Rover to get 28 mpg.”

It’s still a very capable AWD vehicle. “It’s the most-awarded SUV ever,” says Fields. “It has a head-turning design and the 2013 model is coming in fall.”

The Volvo S60 is Fields’ most popular model, along with the XC60 Crossover. “It’s a sporty SUV, new in 2010,” he says. “Until now we could hardly keep the Evoque in inventory, and it will probably be hard for a while to keep new the Range Rover in stock.”

Classic lines

The most recent Porsche update is the new Boxster, observes Alex Schremp, a sales consultant at Zimbrick European. “It’s a great advance over its predecessor in terms of power-to-weight ratio, interior room and interior refinement.”

The Boxster is a pure, mid-engine roadster, and its convertible top lowers in just nine seconds. “It can go down and back up faster than any other models can go down,” Schremp says. “If you’re out enjoying the sun with the top down and it starts raining, the top can operate at up to 31 mph, which is pretty unique.”

Porsche has recently updated its whole model line. “Porsches are known for being pure sports cars, but the Boxster is an all-around vehicle while it’s still sporty,” notes Schremp. “The Sport Button and optional Sport Chrono Package makes it super-dynamic to drive. It has 9.9 cubic feet of storage—more than any other vehicle in the segment.”

Porsche has very classic lines. “You can tell one by its shape if you drive up to it,” Schremp says. “They’ve never lost that vision and it’s not lost in the new Boxster. It has a lot of elements from the classic James Dean era ’50s 550 Spyder model and also the more recent Carrera GT super car.”

This past February Porsche introduced the seventh-generation of the 911 model. “It has a classic design that’s very well accepted,” says Schremp. “Like the Boxster, it has lot of aluminum parts to keep the weight down, but also the strength and integrity of a sports car model. The new Cayman Coupe, a hard-top, two-door, two-seater, will be the next model in spring 2013.”

All of the cars have very refined interiors. “They have easy-access controls, and the screens and navigation systems are at a nice level so you don’t have to take your eyes off the road. They’ve been reengineered with new center consoles, seats and many other features,” Schremp says.

“People are asking for a lot of technology in the new models and that’s what they’re getting, things like Bluetooth connectivity for audio streaming, for example,” he continues. “A lot of companies are going to multifunction buttons—where you use the same switch for the air conditioner, the radio and many other systems—which can get confusing while you’re driving. Porsche is big on having one button for one use. It’s more user-friendly.”

Most popular right now? “The Cayenne luxury SUV is always very popular, and the Panamera four-door, and, of course, the Boxster because it’s new,” reflects Schremp.

Loan rates trending down

When it comes to financing your new auto, it’s a great time to be a borrower, observes Dan Milbrandt, chief lending officer at Summit Credit Union. “Auto loan rates have been trending down. In fact, auto loan rates are at the lowest level they have been in several years,” he says. “In the past two years, our used vehicle loans have outpaced our new vehicle loans.”

Word on the street in the past few years was that it was difficult to qualify for loans, but Milbrandt notes that hasn’t been the case at Summit. “Our loan evaluation processes have remained consistent, fast and easy, so we continue to be a good source for loans. If consumers in general found getting loans tougher in the past few years, it may be at least partly to do with other lenders tightening their financing options in response to market conditions,” he says. 

“Also, consumers’ own financial struggles have affected their ability to qualify,” he adds. “We encourage anyone that’s not sure if they qualify for an auto loan to contact us about options. We work very hard to find solutions for our members.”

Often people make the mistake of shopping for the car first, before obtaining financing. “I cannot stress enough how smart is it for people to call or stop into any Summit office before they shop for a car,” Milbrandt says. “We regularly save people time and money and frustration because we discuss—up front—qualification and the kind of monthly payment they can afford.

“You can imagine the increase in confidence in negotiating when you know exactly what you can afford,” he continues. “And thanks to our partnerships with area dealers, you can close on your preapproved loan right at the dealership when you find that perfect car.”

Credit unions are a wise choice for auto financing, Milbrandt says. “Summit is local, so we can offer same-day approval and local servicing. And we’re a not-for-profit financial cooperative so our profits are returned directly to our members, benefiting them and our communities.”

At Summit, membership is open to everyone. “We’re happy to be in partnership with several Madison area dealerships and offer the flexibility of closing on auto loans at the dealership or the credit union while offering the same rate and loan terms at both,” says Milbrandt.  

“Many of our members beginning the buying process have found our online Auto Resource Center (cudlautosmart.com) very helpful,” he says. “It includes tools to help you learn more about the vehicle purchasing process and you can even explore cars available for sale with our dealer partners.”

- Judy Dahl

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